tv Politics Public Policy Today CSPAN March 2, 2015 11:00am-1:01pm EST
at 6:00 p.m. eastern. the cspan cities tour takes book tv and american history tv on the road traveling to u.s. cities to learn about their history and literal life. next week we partnered with comcast for a visit to galveston, texas. >> people throng to the beach. the rising tide, wind, certainly drew them. they watched in amazement as both of these factors battered the structures. at that time we had wooden bathhouses out over the gulf of mexico. and we also had piers and we would have a huge pavilion called lucky by the sea. as the storm increased in intensity, these beach struck structures literally were turned into match sticks. ♪ the 1900 storm struck at almost the saturday, september 8th, 1900.
the storm began before noon increased in dramatic intensity and then finally tapered off toward midnight. that evening. this hurricane was and still is the deadliest recorded national event. in the history of the united states. >> watch all of our events from galveston, saturday at noon eastern oncspan 2's book tv. barbara mikulski is announcing her retirement this morning in baltimore. she addressed the media this morning. she is 78. a high land town native and maryland senior senator. she served in the senate since 1987. up for re-election next year.
shae became the longest serving woman in the history of congress in 2012. first lekked to the house in 1976. that announcement happening this morning at 11:00 eastern, which is right about now. up next, water experts discuss significant challenges affecting rural areas. they testified friday before a house energy subcommittee. they also addressed upgrading water systems and the need for more access to funding and regulatory compliance. >> i would like to call the hearing to order and recognize myself for opening statement. today's hearing focuses on challenges facing rural water systems. i congratulate and thank the ranking member of the subcommittee and the vice chairman of the subcommittee for their bipartisan work to raise a profile of this issue before the subcommittee. according to census bureau 27% of the u.s. population lives in rural areas. the smallest water systems
account for 77% of all systems. as someone who probably represents communities and small town and rural america, i'm glad we have bipartisan interest in tackling this subject. under the safe drinking water act small and rural drinking water supply systems are subject to a number of drinking water regulations issued by epa. these requirements include systems monitoring treatment to remove certain contaminants. addressing these matters requires technical, managerial capabilities that are often beyond the capacity f these towns to afford on the same scale as urban centers. particularly when it comes to regulatory compliance. it's erratic these communities where residents work hard to support families and local government while earning wages lower than their counterparts in urban areas and demands that are disproportionate to larger communities. sometimes it's just a matter of having the ability to keep up with the red tape. while i'm sure we will explore
the funding mechanisms under epa the agriculture department and other federal agencies not just a matter of throwing more scarce money at the problem rather it's about smartly assessing what the needs are for these systems, prioritizing the importance of those needs, finding out whether the current system can be improved to remove a necessary burden and eliminate bureaucracy and examining whether voluntary or other efforts can aid where congress cannot. i want to thank our witnesses who have put their lives on hold to battle the elements and join us. people who live in rural communities deserve every bit of the water quality and resources than the folks who live in densely populated urban centers do. we look fourth wisdom in helping us understand these issues. thanks again for your work on this issue. i appreciate the work he and mr. harper are doing to break the ice with this first effort. with that i would like to yield
to the vice chair for the remainder of my time. >> thank you, mr. chairman and i appreciate you holding this hearing on the needs of drinking water systems in rural and smaller communities. like you and many other members of congress i represent a rural district where many of my constituents get their drinking water from smaller cities, towns and water associations. according to the national rural water association more than 90% of the community water systems across the united states serve a population of less than 10,000 individuals. these smaller communities do an incredible job of providing our constituents with clean, safe drinking water but are often at a disadvantage because of economic scale and need for more technical expertise. i know this is an important issue to you, mr. chairman, and the ranking member and i thank you for the opportunity to continue working on legislation to ensure our constituents get
the help and clean water they need. i would like to say welcome to my fellow mississippians and providing their insight to the subcommittee today. mr. chairman, thank you again for your commitment on this issue and i yield back. >> gentleman yields back the time and i have a remaining minute left. chair now recognizes the ranking member of the full committee. >> thank you. good morning to our witnesses and thank you, chair for holding this important hearing on what is a very vital topic, and appreciate the opportunity to work in partnership with our vice chair harper as we address an important phenomenon for all of our communities across the country. we've heard the often repeated statistics about rural and small water systems. more than 94% of the 150,000 public drinking water systems in the united states serve fewer than 3300 customers. although small systems dominate
in numbers they serve about 8% of our population overall. but to households and businesses across this great country the key feature they are interested in is not the size of their water utility. it is reliable daily delivery of safe, clean water at an affordable price to their homes and businesses that matters. we will hear from managers of these small systems here this morning. and what we will hear is that they cannot simply pass all of their costs for technical assistance, infrastructure repairs, tapping into new water sources or keeping pace with drinking water regulations on to their customers with ongoing rate increases. the rate bases for these small systems are too small to cover the costs of these essential materials and services. it's long pastime for us here in congress to provide robust
financial support for our water utilities. in addition to superreport through traditional funding mechanisms, the srf and grant programs we should also examine alternative financing mechanism, new technologies and potential new partnerships that will enable every dollar to go forward in reducing the backlog of its infrastructure projects and in ways reduce operating costs through efficiency both water and energy. i am very pleased to have mayor keegan here to represent the small water utilities that serve people throughout our state new york. mayor keegan and our witnesses from representative harper's district in mississippi will provide us with a glimpse of the challenges they face each and every day and their efforts to deliver clean, safe drinking water to their public. they do a remarkable job in keeping clean water flowing to every home every day. water infrastructure is
essential. it's the only way to state it. we can afford to do this. we cannot afford to delay these investments any longer. public health, community viability and economic vitality all rest on the foundation of a sound infrastructure. we cannot maintain global leadership and compete in a 21st century global economy with 20th century infrastructure held together with the hope and a prayer. we have an excellent panel with us today. thank you for taking time away from your important work and busy schedules to be here to do your messaging this morning. and thank you mayor keegan, mr. newman, mr. salmon and mr. stewart for the expertise and dedication you'll demonstrate to your communities that you demonstrate to your communities each and every day at work. i look forward to your testimony and to working with each and every one of you as we move forward. i'm pleased to be working with
the chair of the subcommittee wasn't our vice chair representative harper and other members of the subcommittee on this very important issue. with that i thank you. and mr. chair i yield back. >> gentleman yields back. looking to the republican side anybody seeking recognition. chair recognizing the chairman of the full committee. >> customers of all public water systems large and small wealthy and disadvantaged deserve safe and affordable drinking water. unfortunately public water systems across the country are facing staggering infrastructure replacement costs and emerging threats including climate change. resources is essential to any conversation about safe drinking water. much of our nation's drinking water infrastructure is well beyond its useful life and in desperate need of replacement. investing in drinking water protects public health, creates jobs and boosts the economy. this is particularly important in the case of small and rural systems which even minor projects can be unaffordable and
i thank the chairman for calling this hearing to examine the challenges these systems face. in 1996 this committee passed amendments to the safe drinking water act that set a number much programs intended to help small and rural water systems. those programs focus on capacity development, operator certification, infrastructure funding and technical assistance. all of them are der signed to ensure that customers of small systems receive safe and affordable drinking water. the small pot of money set aside for technical assistance distributed through grantees such as the national rural water association and rural community assistance partnership have been incredibly important for small systems and i'm glad that both groups are represented to discuss any changes that might be needed to strengthen the program. i expect we'll hear the need for technical assistance far out paces the funding available and i hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will join with us to ensure this program is given sufficient funding to meet the requirements
of small systems. the same is true for the drinking water. if we want to ensure that small and rural systems are providing safe and affordable water we should reauthorize the whole srf not just the technical assistance piece. the technical assistance piece is less than 2% of the whole pot. so we should not lose sight of the bigger picture. for disadvantaged communities, the amendment allows states to provide additional support through the srf. for disadvantaged communities states are authorized to provide zero interest loans or principle forgiveness. for systems with small customer bases this is important. unfortunately states are not currently required to provide the assistance to disadvantaged communities and not aldo. the assistance may become scarcer in coming years as the
need continues to grow faster than the available funding. when this subcommittee with legislation addressed toxic algae i expressed my hope it would be the start of broader waterwork and the chair is addressing another important issue. but as i said in the toxic algae, small systems serve only 8% of the population. we should absolutely do what is necessary to ensure they have safe water but should also protect the other 92% and that means reauthorizing the srf, ensuring fracking is done safely, addressing drought and planning, of course, for climate change. i look forward to more drinking water hearings and more bipartisan conversations about some legislative solutions. thank you, mr. chairman. >> gentleman yields back his time. now the chair would like to welcome our panel. i'll introduce you one at a time. your full record submit forward the record. you'll have five minutes. again we expect votes between 10:45 and 11:15. i think we'll get through opening statements. with that i would like to first recognize mr. afreddo gomez
director of the natural resources and environmental area for the government accountability office. welcome, sir and you're recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. good morning everyone. ranking member tonko and members of the subcommittee. i'm pleased to be here today to discuss the infrastructure needs -- >> could you pull that a little bit closer and for our other panelists there's a button in the middle. hit that button when it's time to speak. thank you. >> thank you. i'm pleased to be here today to discuss the infrastructure needs facing rural communities across the nation, particularly for drinking water systems. the u.s. faces costly upgrades to ageing water infrastructure. the demand for drinking water and waste water infrastructure projects in communities with populations of 10,000 and fewer is estimated to be more than 190 billion in coming decades. my statement today summarizes the results of our reports on rural water infrastructure. i'll focus on two main areas. first rural agencies funding for
drinking water. and waste water infrastructure. issues affecting rural communities abilities to obtain funding for this type of infrastructure. first, federal agencies administer programs that can provide funding and technical assistance to rural communities to help them build drinking water and waste water systems anticipate comply with federal regulations. epa's drinking water and its clean water state revolving fund programs known as the srfs provide the most funding totalling 970 million and 1.5 billion respectively in fiscal year 2014. states are required to provide at least 15% of the drinking water srf funds to water systems that serve 10,000 people or fewer.
the department of agriculture's rural utility service program is the next large evident at 485 million in fiscal year 2014 all of which goes to rural communities. some of the other agencies that can provide funding to rural communities include the department of housing and urban development, the economic development administration, and the bureau of reclamation. they have varying eligibility criteria. it's based on population size, economic need and geographic location. second, our previous report found several issues that affect rural communities ability to obtain funding for drinking water and waste water infrastructure. these issues include financing, technical expertise, and agency coordination and both mr. chairman and ranking member tonko and others have noted these challenges. with regard to financing, communities typically did not have the number of users needed to share the cost of major infrastructure projects while maintaining affordable user rates.
in addition rural communities generally have limited access to financial markets, restricting their ability to use bonds to raise capital. as a result these communities depended heavily on federal and state funding. rural communities also did not generally have the technical expertise to rebuild or replace their drinking water and waste water systems. we found they had few staff and often higher consultants and engineers to help them design projects including preliminary engineering reports, plans and environmental documents. agencies provide for some technical assistance that communities can use. lastly, we found that federal communities face potentially duplicative application requirements when applying for multiple state or federal programs. this included preparing more than one preliminary engineering report and environmental analysis which likely made it more costly and time consuming
for communities to complete the application process. we recommended several actions to improve coordination among the agencies and programs. in response as of february 2015 epa and the department of agriculture have developed a uniform preliminary engineering report template that applies to multiple programs. seven states have adopted the template for their use. epa and usda have also begun taking steps to develop guidelines to assist states in developing uniform environmental analysis. in summary, the nation's drinking water and waste water infrastructure needs are large and funding them will be challenging. rural communities face additional challenges in funding their infrastructure needs, given the financial, technical expertise and coordination challenges they face overall. federal agencies with states should consider how to ease communities efforts to be taken funding provided technical
assistance and better coordinate agency efforts. mr. chairman, ranking member tonko that concludes my statement. i'll be happy they answer any questions. >> thank you very much. i would like to recognize mayor joseph keegan mentioned by my ranking member mr. tonko. i see it's castleton-on-the hudson. i know it. the west point school for wayward boys. my alma mater. i know the river and valley real well. welcome and we're glad to have you recognized for five minutes. >> thank you. good morning mr. chairman and members of the subcommittee and my congressman, good morning, congressman tonko. i'm mayor keegan of the castle-on-the hudson.
my village is a member of the new york rural water association a nonprofit associate of small and rural communities throughout the state to somewhat responsible for my appearance here today. i got a call from the association on monday asking about my availability and i happened to be traveling back to castleton last night for a trip related to my day job. my village is typical and representative of communities that have water supplies in new york and the rest of the country. according to the u.s. environmental protection agency the state of new york has 2305 community water systems, 88% serve populations under 3300. all of them small community and sewer utilities have to comply with the same regulations, testing and certifications as the biggest cities.
we have to operate, maintain and update our water infrastructure with very small budgets. as a small community mayor my number one concern and worry is drinking water and number two is waste water. everything else is a distant third. if there's a problem with the drinking water it has to be addressed immediately. middle of the night, middle of the winter, it doesn't matter when. every citizen and especially the most vulnerable depend on the safety of the water including families with infant, schools, nursing homes and people with compromised immune systems. we can't have any contamination of the drinking water. our sewer system needs to function properly to avoid possibility of a sewage spill or back up in people's homes. this does keep me up at night. congressman tonko knows our part of the state is buried in snow. last week the frost penetrated the ground so deeply we experienced two ruptures in our water mains that are five to six feet underground nicole politzi
-- this forced us to ask schools to cover water off and on the when this occurs we manage the situation around the clock, repairing the water line, getting the test to the lab and waiting for the all cloer results with the boil water order. we appreciate the assistance of the subcommittee and congress in helping us to protect the public and successfully operate the public drinking and waste water supply due to various programs and on site initiatives. my village relies on this assistance. i want to thank congressman tonko for supporting the act of 2014 in the last congress. it enhances the current drinking water state revolving fund by further targeting the funding to communities most in need.
we do need help. everything from financing, regulation, compliance and various programs are very complicated for small communities. we don't have financial professionals on staff and often don't understand many of the funding processes. we currently have needs approaching $3 million for our waste water system. we need new aeration tanks. our system is over 30 years old. we need to stop rainwater from leaking in to the system and over taxes our facility. i'm explained for the need for these upgrades and possible failure. however we don't really have a way to finance it. it would triple the sewer rates to take out a loan for that much. you can see the picture in the back of my testimony we have old pipes that need updating or replacing at a substantial cost. the one in the picture is stwampd the date from the 19th-century and still in the ground. we're concerned without more water line replacement we're
vulnerable to more breaks and crisis. you can see the other picture of a pipe recently dug up that's loaded with corrosion and deposits. in my remaining time i want to emphasize the essential assistance we sfref the new york rural water association. and explain why it's so helpful. the association has circuit riders that are on call throughout the state that will come and assist us immediately including evenings and weekends. they are experts on the technical side of water operations. just a week ago we called for help for locating a water leak from a ruptured pipe that could have occurred over any part of 100-foot water line. the circuit rider has specialized equipment that can detect noises and vibrations under ground. in addition my operators 1r0e69% of the training needed to retain their operator's licenses from the new york rural water association. we depend on them just like every other small community.
mr. chairman, i have a lot more to say but you've been very charitable with your time. on behalf of every small town elected official we're grateful. thank you from hearing from us and i'll answer any questions later. >> thank you very much. my district mostly has communities below 2,500 people. thank you for those comments because hopefully they are paying attention. those bells signal that we have been called to vote early. i think we'll just break here. we as a congress, i don't think will be in a hurry today. so we'll, most of us will get back here and hear the final testimony and go into questions. with that i'll recess the hearing.
we'll call the hearing back to order and now i'll turn to mr. k.t. newman on behalf of the rural water association. circumstance you're recognized for five minutes. >> good morning, mr. chairman and members of the subcommittee. thank you for the opportunity to testify here today. my name is k.t. newman and i have been working for or in small and rural community water systems in the mississippi delta for nearly 20 years. i first started out as a small
city water manager in my home town of baden, mississippi which has about 1,000 homes. i then worked for the mississippi rural water association as a circuit rider for ten years. in this capacity i visited every one of the delta's approximately 500 small communities to help them with their water and sewer problems. currently i am working for about two dozen small delta communities assisting them with their water and sewer utilities. i am honored to be accompanied here today by the mayor of one of these small towns, mayor everett hill. the town of komo has a population of 1,200 persons. the mayor challenges are compounded by the fact that as a small town mayor he has a full time job as a truck driver. and has to handle much of the city's issues on its free time. his community has little professional staff because they
simply can't afford it. in komo the waste water system is failing because of its age and inability to meet its current epa treatment. the cost to update the sewer system is approximately $2 million. the komo drinking water system needs an additional $1 million in upgrades. the town was recently fined by the department of environmental quality for failure to comply with their waste water discharge permit. currently the komo waste water treatment facility is actually discharging only partially treated waste water due to failure of the current treatment works. komo is just like thousands of other small communities in the delta and other states. they need a grant rich infrastructure program like the usda's rural development program and they need access to someone that can trust for technical advice, on site assistance and help with managing the funding
application process. mississippi has 1234 regulated public water systems. only two serve populations over 50,000 persons and only 59 serve populations over 10,000 persons. more training needs to problem provided to small town mayors like mayor hill so that multimillion dollar upgrades that will most certainly tax the ratepayers of these communities can be more readily understood and communicated to these residents who will ultimately be responsible for bearing the financial burden. recently many of the small communities in the delta have received violations for a relatively new epa regulation referred to as the disinfections by products rule. it's as a result of disinfected water to make it safe to drink.
if these small communities limit or reduce the disinfectant limits of the water they will comply with this epa regulation but the water may no longer be safe to drink. once the disinfection by product rule is violated many small communities are forced to spend limited resources to report these violations to the consumers. in the time of shaw, population 1900 persons, the community was under a boil water order for over six months because of a broken chlorinator needed to disinfect the water. local schools had to buy bottle water for six months. after they called the mississippi rural water association circuit rider, tom abernathy they were able to revise the town's billing program, come up with a plan to pay for a new chlorinator and receive the payment, train the new mayor and town council. get the town's credit staple and secure emergency state revolving fund financing. in closing, whenever a small community is facing a compliance issue, the complication avenue epa rule, a line break that they
can't find that is causing information lose water service and emergency from a storm or power loss, we all call the circuit riders to tell us what it means and what to do. they have developed a trust relationship with small communities in their states that know how to fix things and are willing to come to your town day, night or weekends. thank you for the opportunity to testify here today. mayor hill and i are available for questions. thank you. >> thank you very much. we will mayor hill. good to have you with us also. i would like to turn to mr. bobby selman on behalf of the mississippi rural water association. you're recognized for five minutes. thank you. >> good morning, mr. chairman, and members of the subcommittee. it's an honor to appear before
you today. my name is bobby selman. i'm a certified drinking and waste water operator in mississippi. i have been working in the water world for 25 years. starting in my home town in lawrence county. i still work for the lawrence county water authority in addition to 12 other small communities. i want to thank my congressman greg harper for his support and assistance to over 150,000 small public water systems across the country sponsoring the grassroots rural and small community water systems assistance act. representatives harper's bill directs the u.s. environmental protection agency to prioritize the type of technical assistance that small communities find is most beneficial. the rural water type of on site technical assistance is what all the small communities in mississippi and the other states
rely on for help with compliance, operations, emergencies, line breaks, loss of water, setting rates and training for operator certification. i'm told that congress funds the epa's internal management budget by hundreds of billions of dollars. small rural communities want congress to know the only benefit we gets comes from a small portion of epa funding that comes from on site technical assistance what we call circuit riders. what small communities do when they have a question or water issue is call their local circuit rider they know, trufrt and know can give them clear answer. these circuit riders often come immediately on site to small communities and teach them,000 fix their problem. there's just no one on the field at the local level providing this essential help. after katrina two of my small communities were devastated. each served approximately 2,500 people and they were without power and water. people in communities can get by
without power for a while. but not without water. i called the mississippi rural water association circuit riders and they found emergency generators for me and delivered them to the communities at no charge. since the circuit riders know everybody in the state they were able to borrow some generators from northern communities not impacted by the hurricane and had the generators delivered to get the drinking water and sanitation restored immediately. the circuit riders also had the technical know how to rig the generators electrical system and even drive a backhoe if needed to clear the streets. all of this type of assistance is essential to restore water supply in an emergency. i call the circuit rider to help me out at a community of about 1,000 homes to find a line break causing a loss of water for many homes. the circuit rider came with advance radar equipment that can precisely identify the location of the break, which on this day
happened to be out in the woods. finding the circuit riders congress is allowing all small and rural communities to share this technical resource that no one community can afford on their own. we think it is the best use of our federal water environmental dollars. with the certification under the safe drinking water act of 1996 state rural water associations have become the main source of training for operators and main source of continued education credits. to find a line break, causing a loss of water for many homes. the second router came with advanced radar equipment that can precisely identify the location of the break which on this day happened to be out in the woods. by funding the circuit routers congress is allowing all small and rural communities to share this technical resource that no one community can afford on their own. we think it is the best use of our federal water environmental dollars. with the federalization of the operator certification under the safe drinking water act of 1996 state rural water associations have become the main source of training for operators and a main source of continuing
education credits which are needed every year to maintain this certification. many parts of rural america have seen interest move on leaving behind depressed economies. in my region the garment industry moved south after nafta. when this happened raising rates becomes overly burdensome. in the town of new hebron, mississippi with a town of just over 400 people we're now being told we need to comply with a new epa waste water discharge permit that will cost 2 to 3 million dollars. i will close with some comments on the federal water infrastructure programs. namely the epa state revolving funds and the usda rural development grant and loan program. we are very appreciative for congressional funding of these initiatives. and realize funding constraints in congress and the nation notwithstanding the curtailment of federal funding, the regulatory burden continues into crease and become more complex. we urge you to emphasize grants in these funding programs. low interest loans don't help the communities facing a severe hardship from federal compliance, leaving the loan funds to be used for compliance with greater availability to afford financing. we are very grateful for the funding assistance. it has allowed many rural and small communities to have access of drinking water and sanitation that would otherwise not have been able to afford without the federal assistance. and we want to be partners in the effort to make the
initiative as efficient and as successful as possible. thank you very much, mr. chairman, and i'm eager to answer any questions at the appropriate time. >> thank you very much. our last but not least. panelist is mr. robert stewart, who is the executive director of the rural community assistance partnership. welcome, sir, and you're recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, chairman shimkus. ranking member and members of the committee. i think the previous witnesses and y'all have done an excellent job at sort of framing the issue. as someone that has worked 20 years with hundreds of communities in texas, both for the rural community assistance partnership and the rural water association and someone who has directed the national program for ten years i'm here to tell you that the needs of small communities are many. the resources are limited. the dedication and determination of small communities to provide their citizens with the best possible water is strong and undiminished. i'm sure everyone knows a little about the rural community assistance partnership. it's in my testimony. i won't repeat things that are in my testimony.
i just want to make a few points that have been touched on but maybe i could amplify a little bit. one is the access to capital. there's a real issue in accessing the resources they need to extend lines to new customers. i believe mr. gomez talked about access to the municipal bond market. for small communities this is not an option at all. 53,000-some community water systems in this country. perhaps 4% of them have the ability to access the municipal bond market. so what they are left with is the two primary federal financing programs being the drinking water srf and usda rural developments. rural and environmental programs. it's really critical that those programs continue to be supported in a robust manner. we work a lot with rural development and their water environments program. they are the primary lender in rural communities. they have some 18,000-plus loans out with small water systems.
and as you probably know there's virtually no default on these loans. we take these matters very seriously in repaying the loans that are made to small communities. one of the things r.d. has going for them is they have field staff never state. theft ability to work directly with the communities. the communities know their local folks in the district and state offices. it's more a cooperative easier way to get funding through rural development. rural development also funds the rural water association and rcap for technical assistance and training. a lot of the staff that work for me around the country work through the application processes and all the requirements that are needed in order to get a loan from rural development. epa state revolving funds are also a very important part of the financing scheme for small communities. as a result of the 1996 amendments to the safe drinking water act, the state revolving program was formed, and it was mainly to deal with compliance issues. if you look at who is out of compliance and where the most health-based compliance issues are, 96% of those are from small
communities. you would think that most of the money, a big portion of the money would go to the communities whether they're urban, rural, small or large that have the compliance issues. but as you can look at epa's own numbers, perhaps 25% of the funding actually goes to the small communities in this country. we would think a larger amount of money from the srf program should be dedicated to economically disadvantaged and small rural communities. epa does have a program as a result of the 96 amendments that funds the technical assistance kind of program that both rural water and rcap have taken advantage of. it's not funded at the authorized level that was was authorized 20-some years ago. we hope you would consider some additional resources for that particular program. what else can be done? what else can we do to work with small communities? there's a lot of other options.
one of which both rural water and rcap work on is sharing of services, how can small communities get together, share an operator, share a manager, share purchasing. how can we look at possibilities of combining systems if they're close? it's very difficult. and one of the problems the funding agencies have is it's easier for them to make a $10 million loan than 10 $1 million lens. that hurts smaller communities even more with reduced staffing levels in both epa and r.d. there's a emphasis for the larger loans which adversely affects small communities even more. the regionalization approaches where appropriate is important. but the only way those are going to happen is if you have people like the circuit riders and the technical assistance providers for rcap that are out working
with those communities on a day in day out basis to work through those issues. one of the things rather quickly because my time's running out is you talk about tools. i'd like to give credit to epa for developing the variety of tools and working with rural development on tools. asset management tools, tools to look at sustainability for communities. again, tools are important to be developed for use by small communities but it takes someone in the field like a rural water or an rcap person to bring those tools out to these communities. maybe this could be handled in the questions. i know you're interested in wifia and some of the other alternative financing programs. i'd be glad to talk about that also. my time's up, though. so i really appreciate the opportunity to be here with you today. >> thank you very much. and i'll recognize myself for five minutes for starting the questioning. before i start, i'm in my 19th
year. my first district was 19 counties. my second congressional district was 30 count why's. and now i represent 33 counties out of 102. we have really been able to access and use the usda rural development and rural water and it's helped force a push to realism and closing the gaps of water or addressing the challenges small communities have because they just -- in rural america sometimes these communities are shrinking. they're not growing. they're shrinking. so they're based to keep up especially with new capital expenses. that's in my area. it's been a very, very successful program. and i just throw that out because i have great people work on that and they've done great work. i'd like to go to mr. gomez first. you've heard some of our witnesses claim the drinking water state revolving funds are not being made available to
provide safe drinking water to the needs of our most needy communities. is there a way to measure across the country whether the drinking water state revolving fund is mediating -- its congressionally intended purpose or authorized purpose? >> that's a really good question. what we are aware of is the drinking water srfs are required to provide 15% of the funds to the small communities. the extent to which states are doing exactly what you're asking we don't know yet. that would be a good question. possibly for gao to look at. there are estimates from epa, for example, that about 38% of the drinking water srfs have gone to small communities. as of 2008. that's the estimate that's out there. but to the extent that it's meeting small communities' needs we don't know that. >> great. well, thank you. are there any reports that show how fast this drinking water funding is spent, by whom and where it goes, including distribution to the neediest communities? >> so one of the things that we are doing at the moment is we do have ongoing work looking at the financial sustainability of the
drinking water srf. there we are looking at different ways in which states are managing these srfs and we're hoping to identify best practices that states are using. that report should be coming out this spring. >> great. thank you. mr. stewart, in your testimony you state that epa state revolving fund needs to be and i'm quoting, better managed to meet small system needs. can you elaborate a little more on that? >> when you look at the numbers, epa has a difference in between the number of loans they're making and the amount of the loans they're making. so the amount of the loans is not sort of the same as the number. not as much actual money that's going in there. the whole purpose of srf was to give the states latitude to run it how they see fit. i think most of the members of
this committee would sort of agree with that because the conditions are different from state to state. but i would think there are some minimum requirements if we're looking at the high non-compliance rates of utilities, the problems with affordty. my home state of texas has a lot of money they're putting into water problems as a result of droughts. california's done the same thing. each state runs it different. a lot of states put extra money in. some states don't. but i think it's good. g.a.o.'s done a terrific job at looking at some of these issues and i would encourage them to continue to do so. >> thank you. my last question, for mr. -- for mayor keegan, mr. newman and mr. selman, can you just given us briefly your success on the state resolving fund versus the r.u.s., or do you access that? why don't we go with mr. keegan first? >> sure. we haven't had very much success. we've had some limitations due to the average income of our community. we've been told it's been too high.
and our average bill doesn't meet the minimum to qualify for the funding. we've paid two separate consulting firms to search out funds for us and both reported the same thing. >> thank you. mr. newman? >> thank you, mr. chairman. in my experience one of the issues with the srf as compared to rural development has been the paperwork is considered to be cumbersome. and the added administrative cost in applying often nullifies the low interest which in turn makes the srf an option of last resort, which i don't believe was the intended purpose. >> mr. selman? >> yes. some of my systems we have used on srfs. we're drilling a well right now
on one of the systems because it depends on what area you're in in the state. but we were having trouble through rural development getting a timely process to get money to drill this well and it was needed. the town of monticello. we got a state revolving fund grant for a sewer project right now we just completed. in our district, in our part of the state we've used it. and it's helped. but the usda seems tore more of a grant. some communities can't afford a loan and the grant helps them. >> my time's expired and i know mr. stewart wanted to answer but i want to go to mr. tonko, who's recognized for five minutes. >> thank you for calling this hearing and for inviting a witness from the 20th district of new york. mayor keegan, i appreciate you make the trip here today. drinking water systems in the district i represent and i think every district across the country are facing significant
challenges as they work tone sure that everyone including people in small and rural communities have access to safe water. that's why i introduced the aqua act last congress, to improve all of the tools epa currently has to assist these systems. i appreciate the work that my colleague mr. harper from mississippi has done on these issues. i look forward to working with him to get at least some of these changes into law. seems every week in my district there's at water main break. treated water and the money we've invested is being wasted. so it's dollars and water flowing out of those pipes. mayor keegan, can you describe some of the issues you have had in your town with water main breaks and the obstacles you face? preventing these ruptures? >> we don't really -- with the recent frost when we have a water main break it doesn't just pop up because the ground is so frozen. so we often don't know where the break is and we don't have the tools or equipment to locate the
break. so we have to either call a consulting firm that could be $1,500 a day to come with special tools or call the new york water association. if they're available, they'll so that is -- it's very difficult. we don't always know where the breaks are located. >> thank you. and this is such a serious issue and one that will require more significant infrastructure financing, including that investment in technology, not just technical assistance. mr. gomez gao has studied the range of government programs that provide assistance to rural and small-water systems an the need the systems face. what is the funding gap for water infrastructure. i know earlier you gave a combined total, i believe for water and drinking water and sewer. what is the fundal for the drinking water -- the funding for the drinking water infrastructure and how much money does it entail? >> so epa has estimated the funding gap and they have
estimated it to be $662 billion. that is an estimate from 2002 and that is based on the next 20 years. >> thank you. and obviously the water systems represented on this panel, i would think, i would agree more resources are required. so mayor keegan do you support legislation to authorize the srf and increase the funding available. you mentioned in your testimony the need for grants and not just loans and i think many of you mentioned that. is it fair to say your village has reached the limit with the ability to borrow more for the needed funds? >> absolutely really. we can't even entertain a municipal bond at this time and right now we are only spending budget items on repairs. we don't have enough money in our budget for replacement of old infrastructure. so we are looking for funding
but it is just a struggle to find any -- >> and i say that is a favorable thing? >> yes. and we encouraging the refunding of that. >> and do you support efforts to expand initiatives like the aqua act? >> absolutely. we call on lots of different -- any technical assistance that can be provided to us is really a value. >> uh-huh. and to the other gentleman on the panel, any other responses in terms of technical assistance, any relevant role it might play? >> in my experience, technical experience is essential in complying with the various rules and regulations of the epa, particularly because many of these rules are often complex and require innovative approaches. so the training and technical assistance that is provided, for example, by our state rural water associations is indeed a
essential component of compliance. >> and the other gentlemen, in terms of technical assistance and funding and the srf. >> various. we get mayors and water boardmanagers or whatever and they need all of the help they can get. and the secretaries they put on a training for them and to ser them and every bit of the assistance we can get is very well needed. >> and mr. stewart? >> the one part i would like to make is technical assistance is important because we need to make sure the investment the federal government is making through epa and the rural development and that technical assist abc makes -- assistance makes sure that they can repay and make suring the infrastructure and the facilities will be maintained at the top operating system and
they could go back and maintain. >> and the act i initiated could address those. thank you, i yield my time back. >> and so mr. harper for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and i think can of few topics more important in every congressional district than the topic we are on today. so thank you for the guests giving testimony we're on today and welcome mayor hill and also just to have each of you here is something that we greatly appreciate and my dear friend kirby mayfield who is here and ceo of the mississippi rural water association who has been a great contact and person sharing information with us. so we are thankful for that. if i could mr. newman ask you, in your testimony, you talked about the trust relationship that small communities have with
circuit riders. as we continue discussing this issue on how epa could and should help our small communities comply with federal regulations among other things, would you take a minute and elaborate on the importance of that trust relationship that our water systems have with our circuit riders? >> yes, sir. the relationships that have been established over the years between the rural water association and the utility managers, the certified water operators, mayors and small-town council has been well established over many years. prime example last evening a small community in mississippi, their water well was down due to snow. and they lost power for a significant period of time. and the mayor, of course customs were calling and it was developing into a situation. the mayor contacted me and i immediately contacted the
mississippi rural water association and they in turn immediately began locating a generator for that town and thankfully were able to get that generator delivered to resolve that situation. so, in essence, the experience is if you've got a problem and don't know what to do, you call the mississippi rural water soerks and they are there every -- association and they are there every time to provide the needed assistance. >> and i'm glad you explained to some of our folks that we have snow in mississippi. >> yes. >> so that was a surprise to i think, some. >> and mr. sellman, thank you for your kind words and your testimony. and i look forward to visiting with the double ponds water association folks next month in d.c. >> thank you. >> you talked about hurricane katrina, which impacted our state and louisiana greatly.
it was the greatest most costly national disaster in our state's history and you mentioned two water systems in simpson county in my district and the assistance they received after katrina. would you talk for a minute of the tools that small systems don't have access to. i think you mentioned radar equipment. how important are the tools to the survival of our smaller water systems. >> yes, very important. before katrina we hadn't had a natural disaster in south mississippi like that since camille. i recon, 1969. but we were without power and 120 miles from the coast and without power for 19 or 20 days. and at that time, the water system had started putting in water generators very few but some had. and like i said in the testimony, you can make it
without power for a while. rig up your generator to get the tv on or something. but without water, you can't make it. and we immediately called our circuit riders. they found generators in arkansas, north mississippi and wherever and brought them us to and helped us getting them hooked up and get them working again. and same with the wastewater stations and we hooked them in and got water to the wastewater to the treatment plant. and they keep -- any time we need to locate a line. a lot of lines that were put in have grown up in trees. you don't know exactly where the line is. you come out there with this machine and locate that line for us and help us tap it. help us do whatever we need and that machine is about $35,000. and most of the little systems don't have the money for that. so what we do, we call rural
water and they help us with whatever we need. >> that is great. thanks to each of you and great to have all of you here and great for that and i want to specifically thank ranking member tonko with his assistance as we try to work threw these issues. >> and thank you the gentleman from texas, mr. green for five minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman and others for the drinking water. i represent an urban community in texas and we have the same problems in our suburban areas that won't be annexed by the cities because the property tax could never cover the cost, and yet they are literally south in houston and we've received money from the state revolving funds and part of it is used to find freshwater and to partner with the county because -- for sewer
service. but it boernled me that last year that texas received the lowest amount of money from the state resolving fund of $53 million and that goes back to 1997 and that is not accounting for inflation. the fact is deeply troubling because of the significance of growing drinking water infrastructure needs of texas in general. and like i said a very urban district. if it is in the city, they'll do it. but this city is not attractive to be annexed and it is very poor communities. and there are septic tanks in very urban areas and very shallow water wells. and that is why this hearing is important. my first question is mr. newman, mr. sellmon and mr. stewart, do you believe the congress should reauthorize the state water fund this year. >> i would like to start off? >> it seems like it is easy. >> yes. it is one of the most important
funding for water systems. >> for the other three gentlemen, do you all of you agree we should reauthorize it? >> yes, sir. >> yes, sir. >> do you believe congress should increase the funding to the state and local communities for the drinking water for the safe state revolving fund, raise the authorization for it? now i explained to folks, authorization is we have that but you can raise your authorization as high as you want and you still have to go back every year and beg the appropriation committee for the money. >> he's saying do you think the authorization amount should be raise add cross -- raise add cross the country. >> if we asked for appropriations, not only your states but others? >> yes, sir. >> well my opinion is this is an investment. this is to capitalize the revolving funds and this is not money going away in capital grants this is money capitalized again and again for communities
large and small. >> but should the fund be raised so we can cover more communities? >> absolutely. >> mr. newman? >> absolutely. >> i would also like to add that in addition to raising the funding to cover more communities, take a look at the process and make sure that the money is being utilized by the communities that it was intended to be beneficial for. >> you think there is something authorizing law that we need to change that would make that happen? >> i'm not so sure about the process of the authorization of the law as i am concerned about just the implementation of the funds and those things that discourage the smaller communities in mississippi that i'm familiar with pursuing those funds, because these funds were intended to benefit the smaller communities and there is a gap. and i think that we all need to figure out how to bridge that gap. >> you know, the biggest problem we have in my area is that these
are very poor communities. and to have a revolveing fund and to have it pay back they can hardly afford the monthly water and sewer bill to be able to pay it back. so there is -- that is the issue again, in my area and a assume it is in north mississippi and just like in other parts of rural texas. and -- mr. stewart you indicated you worked two decades on drinking water issues and i used -- for the last two years our rain stopped at the louisiana border because from beaumont, texas, it has been great rin from houston, texas, but we have problems out past san antonio because that is still in a drought area. how would you describe our state drinking water infrastructure in texas? >> i would say for the most part it is pretty strong.
but i think there is a certain disadvantage communities that you are talking about, that need some additional resources. and there is some hard-hit drought areas in north central texas of my our yeah of central texas that need additional support. and in texas -- and texas has benefited because we have river authorities and progressive water development board and people looking at this issue from a lot of different angles. and texas did provide recently the voters, you voted for a constitutional amendment to provide for it, because of the problems we have. and in 2011 harris county, as much of our state was in the grips of the drought during the height of the drought due to aging water lines hardening soil, hundreds of water line breakage, resulting in billions of gallons of loss treated water, do you have any sense of the impact of the 2011 drought had on our state? >> that is something the gao
might be better to answer. but i know it is severe economic impact because if you don't have the water sources, you are not going to be able to support the businesses, the growth occurring over texas. water is the foundation of all of the economy in this country. >> i know i'm over time. thank you. >> way over time. >> we talk a little slower. >> i think my colleague and i recognize the gentleman from pennsylvania mr. murphy. >> thank you. i'll talk fast to get what i can in. and this is for mr. sellman and mr. newman. and thank you for being here. and the engineers who serve in the rural water district for example in green county, in southwestern pennsylvania very rural area they say the states impose the drinking water requirements which are far more district than the epa standards set forth in the drinking water act. could you provide some examples for me where some of the state-imposed requirements in your communities go beyond or differ from the epa standards?
>> in mississippi, and mr. sellman can elaborate on this or correct me if i'm wrong, but i believe in mississippi, that our state regulation are exactly the same as the federal guidelines being no more or no less stringent than the language in the federal act. >> same here, mr. sellman. >> and does anybody else see differences in their communities? >> no. that is correct. i don't think our regulations could be more zrinkent than the -- stringent than the federal act. >> i note some states require that you have a certain well production and surface water treatment plant, storage and pumping capacity and those adversely affect small communities because they are not -- they are not -- the nearing basis justified on the
base of how much water is being used. >> so in green count where they are dealing with dam energy, that is not water quality but water delivery is that what you are saying? >> exactly. the capacity requirements, pumping or storage elevated ground storage, that is higher than i think -- to what is needed to protect public health. >> what this gets into it -- let me come back to that. so how much could -- the heightened standards cost rural drinking water systems. if we make changes -- will it affect, i heard some of you alluding to costs and what does this -- what does this vary for communities and anybody have the estimate of the costs that you would bear? >> probably saying the consulting fees that we spend,
looking for funding. >> anybody else have any thoughts about this? >> well i would just say it depends on the requirement. if you are having to treat for arsenic, you are talking about doubling or tripling of the water bill for a small community. it depends on what kind of treatment or constituent the epa is requiring the small community to treat for. >> so the question i -- i have and i know you've talked about these things, but how do rural systems get the funds they need to deal with this compliance issue? >> and have you had any thoughts on this on what we do? i heard one comment could the federal government send more money and when the federal government increases standards i think it is unfair you must do all of these things and bare the cost but it comes down to how can you bear these costs when you have someone who lives a mile or half a mile from the next person and there are huge
costs to this. anybody have any comments on this? >> we just raised our rates. we had the -- the d.e.c. required our local school district to be on the local water and they passed a bond and they passed that price on to the taxpayers to hook into the system at quite considerable expense. -- >> what kind of percentage increase would you say that was? >> i'm not sure. >> anybody else have any other comments other than rate pairs? >> other raising the rates, that is the only option they have in the 10% to 20% sometimes. >> and we have the grant systems and my communities are asking for changes in the way that the loans are established rates et cetera. any comments on those? >> the paperwork is quite cumbersome.
and usually we have to hire a consulting firm to help us apply for the loan. >> can you elaborate on that cumbersomeness cumbersomeness. >> we don't have the staff that can understand what is required in the paperwork. we give them the -- the data how much water we use every day and that kind of thing. >> so is it safe to say that simplifying paperwork and if you are going to be giving -- required to have to hand in lots of paperwork to provide assistance and filling that out? >> absolutely. >> thank you very much. >> for the sake of time i'm going to try to be quicker on the gavel so everybody gets a chance. mr. lauder is recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman and to our panel. thank you very much for being here. this kind of strikes home to me because as a -- i was a county commissioner in wood county, ohio for six years and handled water and sewer issues and
created a regional and water and sewer district to put things together because my home county was 600 square miles and five cities, 21 villages, 19 townships and a lot of unincorporated area. and it is important and hearing all of you brings back memories of over 20 years ago that i used to sit in meetings and hear people talk about because they are important issues. in ohio alone we have $21 billion that we are looking at that we need in infrastructure improvements from water to wastewater and storm water. and so what you are saying here today is very very important. and i really appreciate you being here because i can kmizer ate with what you have all said. and i've been working on legislation for one session to try to help on the wastewater side to help rural communities. but if i could, because i will tell you, you all had very good
testimony today and again i appreciate you being here and if i could start with mr. gomez, i think it is important because one of the things that we're hearing out here is there is a shortage of dollars out there that we have especially when we are talking about rural areas. could you discuss the relationship between the epa and the usda programs and whether there are overlaps out there and what about the efficiencies of synergies that could occur if we were looking at these programs to make sure they didn't have duplication out there or anything like that? >> sure. thank you. so we have looked at those programs in particular. and also at the other agencies that have programs that help rural communities. with respect to the usda rural utility service and the srf, they do have some similar programs. we did not find any areas where they were duplicating effort,
meaning they were funding the same project for the same purpose. projects can get funding from both programs. but they are usually focusing on different areas. now the other thing that we've reported on is the importance for those two agencies to work together to collaborate. but also to encourage the state srf programs to work closely with the usda rural utilities service so they can get efficiencies. one of the recommendations we made was that they needed to come up with a unify preliminary engineering report so that communities aren't filing multiple engineering reports. which costs money. and so those are things that the -- that we're tracking and happy to hear that they have come up with a uniform preliminary engineering report and that some states have already adopted it. so we think those are places where if by working together, they can better target the monies. >> thank you.
this is for mr. stewart and mr. newman, because you both kind of touched on it. and in your testimony you had mentioned, mr. stewart, about bringing the tools back to the communities and the cost of that technical assistance because i know what that would cost. and what are you -- what do you find? are the tools there are they readily available because i know we heard from other members asking the panel about the cost. but do you find that you have that assistance out there to be able to get that as soon as you can get it? >> there are a wide variety of tools with our rural communities. and the epa and rda are working on multiple tools, i think i testified in my testimony. it is the access to the tools. we need the access to the tools whether it is a financial management program or an o and m
manuals, whatever the tools are. the real expense is not the tools but bringing them to the rural communities unless you have an access member out there working with them. >> mr. newman would you like to touch on the assistance out there in the communities? >> to reiterate the comments that i've made as well as mr. stewart, from the perspective of the water system manager, the resources, the assistance is invaluable because there are varied issues that occur throughout a water or wastewater system that may be beyond the scope of that utility and beyond the financial capabilities so that is absolutely essential. >> the time is expired. >> thank you. >> i recognize the gentleman
from west virginia. >> thank you. this could go in several directions with this. we've heard a lot of horror stories and have a little town in w west virginia -- in west virginia, i think we have a slide of a water line they've been facing, can we get that up? there it is. it shows how just col you'ded the line -- col you'ded the line is. they have applied ten times to get money and they've been rejected ten times since 2002. we just don't have the money in the srf. and what i was pleased about was the president about this year is the president maintained for the most part the funding from the previous year as compared to what we've seen in the past where the year before he made a 40% reduction in the srf. because they said the priority
was climate change. and we've heard that mentioned from the other side of the aisle. they thought climate change was a higher priority than funding our water problems in rural america. i'm curious, so i hope that some will see the light with that, but the and i'm concerned about the regulatory burden because a lot of have been talking this hearing is about rural america, not what has been offered to be concerned about the big cities, i'm worried at this hearing that we stay focused on rural america because here is a listing of the some of the rules and i've designed a lot of sewer and water lines, but things a small city has to take care of is the arsenic rules lead and copper rules, the back wash water rule, the certificate one and two. and the disinfect rule the
surface water rule, i could go on and on. these are rules that small cities deal with just as well as a larger community of 100,000 and 200,000. and i have three other communities that -- they are just trying to find money for operations. and let alone this one community is working on a 19th century system. they are trying to replace it with that water line right there. how can we get money for operations? because we've got -- we've got one community in west virginia that are dumping raw sewage in the potomac river because they don't have money to be able to do the maintenance work they have to do. we have others -- i have another community that they are getting the water through waterbuffalos. pouring into a cistern so they have some water. this is 2015 in america. but yet we have an administration -- and until this year, every year for the last three years have been reducing
money to the srf. what are -- how are we failing our country when we don't put enough money into the srf. what do we have to do? how much more money? and where do we go? and i would like to add, should we be prioritizing the srf money for rural communities so we are weighing them more heavily than the bigger cities? >> sir, you're preaching to the choir here. i think all of us would agree a significantly greater percentage of the srf money should go to the smaller community and they should be able to access it quickly. and you can't get the money until you are on the intended use plan. and that is difficult to do. do you have an engineer you are working with, somebody who will
submit the paperwork and get a chance to get the money. that is a problem. i said in my testimony, we need assistance so the small communities can get on the intended use plan which is what they do to prioritize money into the srf. >> what would be some faektors that -- factors that a small community putting in could be given better consideration than a larger community? any of your thoughts? mr. gomez? >> well generally, what gao always recommends that is that -- is that you target community funds to the most in need. that is one of the areas that we could target. >> okay. well i guess we are running out of time, again, mr. chairman thank you for bringing this up. this is for small cities. the big cities have their own issues but they have the resources and the critical mass to be able to take care of our small towns of 4 hundred and 500 people are struggling.
we need to take care of it. >> and congress from ohio for five minutes. >> i represent appalachia, ohio, and i don't have to tell you folks how rural that is. i hear the horror stories, many of which you just heard i could cite similar cases that my colleagues from west virginia mr. mckinley did, mr. sellman long before i was elected to congress ip served -- i served 26 years in the air force and stationed in columbus mississippi and you know how rural that area is. and so i've seen this for a long time. so does the gao track and can you tell us in regard to all urban and rural systems how many municipalities have their systems charge the true cost of providing water to their customers and how many are operating in the red?
>> and that is debatable, whether people are paying the true price of what the water costs. i don't believe we have to -- we have done work in that but if we have, i would have to get back to work on that. >> would you take a look at that. i think the american people are interested to know how the small rural communities are struggling. and many of them are operating in the red as it stands right now. because their residents can't even afford the cost of providing the water. >> and i can also say that epa has estimated that for the rural communities, if they have to undertake the water and wastewater infrastructure projects, their rates will likely be four times what the urban rate payer would be paying. >> oh, absolutely. >> and i've got rural areas that are under that exact pressure. they don't have the money
because of the economy they don't have the money to comply with the mandates today and on top of that being levelled with fines that they also can't pay. and it is like getting blood out of a turnup and i know you know what a turnip is. so it is tough. and let me ask you a question mr. newman, your testimony mentions that the town of como, mississippi, had $2 million in wastewater needs and $1 million in drinking water needs to undertake. what is the annual operating budget of como? >> the annual operating budget in the town of como is approximately $150,000 annually. >> all right. and what is the average income of the residents? >> per capita about $21,000. >> okay.
is raising local water rates a realistic possibility? >> it is from operation and maintenance but not from the standpoint of -- >> making the upgrades. >> yeah. >> and even if you raise the rates, would it be enough to cover the could have of providing the service? >> no. >> okay. what is their access to or are there limits on other funding sources like commercial lending? now that is -- that is a double edged question because the question itself kind of ses well why don't you go in debt? >> sure. >> to provide water and that is certainly not a principal that i subscribe to but are you considering other sources? >> by enlarge, the primary source is rural development. primarily because of the grant component. other options as we have discussed, include state resolving fund even commercial
lending. however, as is the case with srf, commercial lending is 100% loan and the interest rates on the commercial loan is typically going to be higher than srf. but at either case because of the low economies of scale a community like como can't afford to borrow the money necessary to make these improvements, they just don't have enough customers over which to spread the cost. >> okay. all right. gentlemen, for mr. newman and mr. keegan and mr. sellman what challenges do you have in assessing the drinking water state revolving funds and how does that compare with accessing rural utility service funding? >> well, i'll allow these gentlemen to elaborate but one of the issues that i think we touched on as well you've got more help in applying with rus
as opposed to srf. the cost applying to srf, you may have to utilize services from a consultant which adds to the cost and that is typically not the case with the rural development process. >> okay. mr. sell man? >> well we've been able to use some srf money. our engineer takes whatever they allow as that consultant amount whatever they allow for an attorney or engineer or whatever, he does the paperwork for whatever that is. and they have that specified in the loan. and i know in certain regions, they have not. but we've been able to take advantage of that but we have trouble getting money for our rural development. >> thank you my time is expired. but mr. keegan can you respond? >> we've had trouble accessing funding from either state. in new york state funding goes to new york city with either citation or problem with our
system. we are -- our engineers work hard to keep our system smooth-running so we're sort of at the bottom of the pile. >> thank you very much. mr. chairman rural america knows how hard it is to get blood out of a turnip and i appreciate you having this hearing so we can shed some light on how difficult it is to do this. thank you very much. >> thank you very much. and i thank my ranking member and my vice chair who is also trying to lead this charge too. last but not least, mr. kramer from rural state of north dakota. so you are recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman, from illinois and ranking member from new york for acknowledging rural america and for reminding us there are other rural places that are better known for the urban centers. it is good to have an alliance. my colleagues -- or my constituents with the north dakota rural water system
association would be very proud of all of you. you have done a great at job and i felt right at home even with the unusual accents. but it is a reminder there are some things we work together on and that are very important. and i won't -- i won't delay except to tell you that we hear a lot about the circuit rider program from our folks and i think you raise a very important issue. and i think that it is incumbent upon us as policymakers and eventually appropriators to look for opportunities to prioritize the programs you talked about within the context of the entire act. and given the constraints -- the financial constraints we have, we have to be created but we can re prioritize. and i want to ask for a little bit of elaboration i thought the gao report was fantastic, quite frankly. and think it is nice to see the alphabet soup, as my
constituents often refer to it and see there is both recommendation findings and then response by multiple agencies that have -- to have a tendency perhaps to create extra burden by what you are requiring, sort of uniform processing, but not in a uniform way. so a uniform preliminary template i think is a great tool. and i would -- i think at a time when our constituents are looking for an effective government, this is the time. and i raise it because i wonder how many more times we could duplicate this throughout the system. one of the frustrations i've seen in last two years here is not just with epa and usda rural developments and certainly in fact there are many others with more. i just hope that we could, as a house, as a congress and as public officials at every level look for more of these types of
opportunities where the public could go wow, that makes perfect sense because right now they look at it and i'm sure you do you mean i have to hire the engineering firm to do the exact same thing all over again for another agency and pay them the same. so i want to say thanks for that. i want to monitor that carefully to see how that works out and you will want to as well, mr. gomez, because therein lies the opportunities to see functionality of government in a way that people expect of us and that we haven't done so well. >> thank you. and we are tracking that by the way. it is part of our tracking that we do every year because we want to make sure that those agencies are making progress and that it is helping the communities in need. >> thank you. and i will leave some time on the clock and not -- and just thank you for being so patient to hang around with me this long. thank you.
i lead back. >> gentleman yields back his time. it looks like we are about gone. is there anything else you want to say and take an opportunity? >> thank you, mr. chair. i just want to commend the entire panel. i think what you shared with us is not only great insight, but advocacy for what is a very high priority+ through the fronlt-line -- front-line experience and it has an impact on the decisions made here and thank you for reinforce reinforcing for what we understood to be a problem and this is a high-priority problem for the country. so thank you very much. and i was impressed by all of the statements that you've made and the responses that you've provided. >> i want to thank the ranking member for the comments and again thank you for being here. i think it is just going to energize us to kind of -- i've asked mr. tomko and mr. harp tore get together and try to see -- harp toreer to see where there
are sim lair ates to -- similarities to get together and there are areas left behind because they are small and it is not a political statement, it is just the nature of our country. so i was -- i really appreciate the involvement of my colleagues too. so thank you. i have some business to do. i ask unanimous consent that the sub-committee members submit opening statements and concerning a letter from dr. ralph jones and a report from the environmental working group without objection. so ordered. and find that members of the committee have ten days to submit written questions for the witnesses to be included. you may get some as follow up we ask that you answer those and return those if you can. and that is without objection so ordered. and with that, the hearing is adjourned.
>> live coverage on cspan today, today -- the chair of the consumer product safety commission budget and that starts at 3:00 eastern. and later national security adviser susan rice is speaking at the at the the aipac and that will be live here on cspan3. and in the 114th congress. there are 43 new republicans and 15 new democrats and 12 new republicans and new democrats in the senate and there are new first african-american women in the house and the first woman veteran in the senate. keep track of the members using congressional chronicle on
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featuring archival government and films from the 1970s. cspan3 watch us in hd like us on facebook and follow us on twitter. the white house hosted a meeting on community policing called the president's task force on 21st century policing. one of the panelists features criminalologists and law enforcement officials. it is 2 1/2 hours. so good morning. we'll get started. before i get started some housekeeping. if you have a cell phone, please either turn off or put it on vibrate. we appreciate it. good morning and welcome to the
president's task force on 21st century policing. today is a special day. we have one distinct wished and i would say the final panel. be careful in saying we save the best for last because all of the panels were outstanding and in many ways we save the best for last and i'll leave it to the co-chairs to explain the thought and why we are closing out the public meeting in this way and this is the outstanding way to close out. on december 21st 2014 the president announced his intent to create a tosk force on 21st century policing to deal with what was simmering at the time, the issue of trust between police and many of our communities. and he made it clear, not all of the communities but many, and put together a task force led by two distinguished co-chairs laurie robinson, also the former assistance attorney general for office of justice programs and to her left philadelphia police
economicer charles ramsey who is the philadelphia police commissioner and the former police chief here in washington d.c. and then the nine distinct wished members who put this together and asked them to come up with concrete recommendations on how to build trust and so do in a matter that we are still enjoying and achieving the crime reduction over the last 20 or 30 years. and we've put together a task force responsible for providing the president's report on march 2nd, which is next week and next monday and so we had a total of 90 days to put this together. and in doing this we had public sessions. each one has been outstanding. we've had six and today is the 7th. so we've heard over 150 witnesses and we've listened and received even more written testimonies. and at the -- after today's morning panel we'll be able to work together to dlbt and come up -- deliberate and come
together with a recommendation for the president. and today is the last public panel discussions and there is no better way to end it. at that point i would like to turn this over -- and before i continue, let me say, in the back of the room is a lot of staff in the cops office. and theco-chairs have been gracious in thinking of each and every session. s with' close out the public listening sessions i want those watching to know what that means. we talk about the cops supporting it. so when the president created this task force he then identified the department of justice to support the efforts, to make sure the task force needs what it has to do its job. my office of policing services was tasked with providing those services and i would say honored to provide such a great temperature and the cop staff working with sai has done a tremendous job. if you think about what has been accomplished thus far in 90 days or less than 90 days it has been truly amazing so i want to tell
them publicly from the bottom of my heart thank you for your leadership and your commitment and your dedication and thank you for the work that has yet to come because we still have to crunch a report out next week. so thank you for that. and with that, i do want to turn it over to the co-chairs so they can lead the final panel and into the conclusion of the process. and i'll start with the co-chair commissioner charles ramsey. >> thank you ron. and thank all of you for being here this morning. this has been a very fast process that we have embarked upon over the past 90 days and it seems like a week or two when you think back on how compressed it has been but a lot of good work has come from it. i want to thank you for your testimony today but for all of those that have testified before you, submitted written comments and participated in the audience, it has really been very helpful in us framing what will be the final
recommendations that we will present to the president next week. i'm not going to go over anything in terms of how this came about. ron did a very good job of that. soon you'll be introduced to the other task force members. as was already mentioned chuck ramsey and i'm the honor of being a co-chair with laurie robinson who i think we've made a good team over the past few months. i am currently the police chief in philadelphia. seven years, i have served in that capacity. prior to that, i was the police chief here in washington for almost nine and began my career in chicago, i'm a native chicagoan and i started as a cadet in 1968 so i've been around for a while and seen a lot of changes in policing over the years. a very dynamic profession and this is just a period of time again when we've got challenges to meet and we will meet those
challenges and as we talk about and as we discuss things that would really assist us in better serving the public today we wanted to put together a panel to lean forward and look at tomorrow and what lies ahead and that is why you are all here today. so again thank you very much. and i will now turn it over to laurie robinson. >> thanks so much, chuck. it has been such a pleasure working on this super-speed panel task force particularly with my co-chair chuck ramsey. i've been in this field for more than 30 years working with the american bar association, about ten years with the department of justice, and more recently in academia. and as chuck said, our time on this task force has been kplesed but really -- compressed but
remarkable with the opportunity to hear from so many witnesses bringing such expertise before us. but our in tent with this panel, as he said, was to look ahead. and i would characterize it, that we do have a super-star group here and that was our in tent. so i'm looking forward in a minute to introducing our panel. but before that i want to give our task force members who, by the way, have been wonderful to work with and what an opportunity to get the chance in what i would describe as kind of a bunker mentality as we've moved ahead. and it is something that i will think about for really the rest of my career this opportunity to work with them. i'm going to start down at the end with roberto villasenor and then move down the line. roberto. >> good morning. as laurie said, my name is
roberto villa sen or and i'm the chief of police for tucson, arizona. i grew up there. i was the chief for the past six years. this has been the culmination experience for my career and in having the opportunity to provide input and to receive input at this level and from such distinguished members as your sflsz and then -- yourselves and then also working with this group here instead of attending 20 different -- 150 different schools and i was able to bring 150 professors to me and to sit there and be awed by them and pick out the framework of best practpractices. so it is a wonderful experience and i'm excited to get to a day's work of deliberation and i'm sure it will be long but i'm sure we can come to consensus on a lot of topics.
thank you. >> good morning. i'm bryan stevenson and i'm an attorney and i spent most of my career providing legal services to poor people, people convicted of crimes, people imprisoned, people facing conviction and sentence. i also want to just express my gratitude to our co-chairs for the remarkable leadership through the process, to the cop staff who have organized these convenings and to my colleagues on the task force. this has been intense but incredibly insightful and educated process and we appreciate those of you who are here today to help us complete the process. i am looking forward to working with the task force members and the administration and in hopefully doing what we can to add to the quality of policing in this country and perhaps in encouraging the debate and the dialogue necessary to make policing what it should and can be. i want to thank all of those who
have organized this and express my gratitude to you this morning for being here. >> good morning, i'm sean smoot, i'm the director and police council for the police benevolent and national police organizations. over the last 20 years, i've dedicated my professional life to advocating rank and file police officers in various forms, including before legislative bodies in court and at the bargaining table. i'm especially excited about the panel today because i came up as a student of criminal justice at the time that community policing was really starting to filter out into the country. and starting my career working with law enforcement as a practitioner and later on as an advocate, i've had an opportunity to see the ebbs and the flows of community policing
and in departments of all various sizes as large as chicago and as small as a place like granite city illinois. and on a national level. so i'm really excited and encouraged and i have to say, i would like to express my gratitude to president obama for impanelling this task force. i think it was a courageous thing to do and it certainly was the right thing to do. and he put together a tremendous team. i'm honored to serve with the rest of my colleagues here on the task force. and i look forward to closing out our listening session today with a look toward the future and my look is quite hopeful. so thank you. >> good morning. i'm sue rahr. i started my career in lawmaker 35 years ago as a deputy sheriff working patrol and it was somewhat on a lark. and 35 years have flown by. my last seven years of my
career, i was the elected sheriff in king count which is the metropolitan area around seattle. and never in my wildest dreams thought i would have an opportunity like this. i think anybody having -- having been able to be part of this panel would say this is amazing. we've got the greatest minds in this profession coming together. so anybody that says federal government works slow, not on this panel. or not on this task force it. has been quite a miracle. and just such a privilege to be part of this movement and like sean, i'm very, very optimistic about the future. we are really at a cross roads and we have good people good will, and a lot of great ideas, so i'm looking forward to putting it together. thank you. >> good morning, everyone. my name is tracy mereares i have
been an academic now at yale. my policy is crimminology and how to understand violent crimes and how to address it. and more recently i'm focusing on procedures of justice and legitimacy in policing. and so this work that we've been doing over the last six weeks has been extremely gratifying professionally for me. but it is also, like my co-panelists have said an amazing opportunity not only to hear from experts like you, but to hear the voices from the community from people who have lost their children and who struggle every day trying to deal with both issues of crime in their communities and how to best come up with a strategy to have policing and law enforcement be accountable to
them. so i'm extremely glad that we're ending with a panel on policing for the future because -- and it is my hope that our report will be a launching pad for change. >> good morning, my name is brittany packnett. and 200 days ago today, you never would have convinced me that i would have spent the last six months standing on streets very close to my childhood home, standing up for justice, standing up for some of the 20,000 young people that i serve in my full-time job as executive director of teach for america in st. louis. and standing up for young men and women who look like my brother and myself. and trying to create change from tragedy. and so this is not the only work that is going on in that realm but i'm deeply thankful to be a part of this step. i never knew that as an educator, i would know this many
about policing. and i am thankful to have had the opportunity to help be a voice for young people in this process. and so i process. and so i am hopeful, i'm feeling incredibly urgent about the work that is ahead and thank you all for joining us. >> good morning. my name is jose lopes. i am the lead organizer at the make the road new york. we're an organization based in new york city and new york state that combines social services and community organizing to work with our 16,000 members to advance mostly public policy around different issues at both the city, state and national level. as an organization we're also a member of cpr, communities united for police reform and unprecedented campaign in new york city that started initially to challenge the nypd stop, question and
frisk program. and the youth power project at make the road is currently in the final stages also of our partnership with the public science project at the graduate center where we're working with about a dozen youth researchers to study the impacts of the stop, question and frisk program on young people between the ages of 14 and 24. so thank you all for being here. >> good morning and welcome. i'm cedric alexander. i'm currently public safety director in dekalb county, georgia, and also serve as the national president of -- my career started actually in 1977 in florida, tallahassee, orlando, and subsequently in dade county where i left, i think, about 1992, decided to go back to school and become a clinical psychologist and i'm
still trying to determine whether that was a good idea or not. but nevertheless, that training certainly has helped me a great deal in moving through this profession and helping this profession change, as well, too. but with that being said, i think over the last 35 years, and i remember back in 1980, and many of you may remember the riots during that time, and those riots actually grew out of a whole lot of years of distrust and, quite frankly, police brutality that had been occurring throughout that community for a long period of time. and the reaction of that community after the loss of a life in the hands of police officers really changed the course of that community and changed the course of that police department, as well, too. and being an alumnus of miami-dade police department, they -- that agency, that community have really done a tremendous job over the last 30 something years in order to
change the trajectory and relationships that exist to this day in that community. so there is plenty of opportunity here, i think, for us to continue to progress the field as i often hear ron davis say in who has been brilliant at leading us through this, as well, too. i'd like to say thank you and look forward to dialoguing with you this morning. >> thank you, dr. alexander. and let me turn back now to ron davis for some announcements. >> so once again for those that are watching, thank you for your patience as we go through this process. put out a lot of thanks. i'll just skip to and i have to apologize. so give me a moment to recognize them. as part of the process, we brought on board, besides the outstanding cop staff, the sai team we have two great technical advisers sitting at the table. darrell stevens and steve rickman who are kind of behind the scenes and have been valuable assistance to the cops
team, the task force, thanks for your participation and leadership. also, want to remind people before we get to the first panel, this is being live stream web cast. we are encouraging comments from the community at large, you can provide comments by going to the cops website. there is an icon you can click on that says president's task force and you can leave comments for the task force, recommendations, and it's a good venue. and we do receive them. and you can also shoot us comments through twitter @policetaskforce. and take advantage of those venues to do so. and with that, i think we're prepared to start. >> excellent. now, introducing the panel, in order to leave time for the testimony and questions, i'm just going to make very brief introductions. the full bios for these witnesses are on the cops' website. if i were going to go into the full bios, we would take up the
entire hour and a half. these are very distinguished and accomplished individuals. and unfortunately, we don't have time to go into their full backgrounds. we're going to start out with dr. phillip goff. he's a professor at ucla, a welcome and look forward to your comments. >> thank you, madame co-chair. thank you, also, to the task force for all of your work, all those working behind the scenes. my honor to be here today, and on this panel of distinguished individuals. five minutes. for the past decade, my work has a researcher and as president of the center for policing equity has sought to bridge gaps between social science laboratories and the laboratories for democracy that american citizens and law enforcement negotiate daily. today, i want to talk with you about the need for a stronger evidence base in policing and for further incorporation of social science in using that base to ensure fairness and criminal justice, particularly in the area of raise.
what i want to suggest is that social science can set the table for traditionally adversarial forces to come together and move towards the future. so as a scientist both in my full-time job and in my spare time, it bothers me no end there's an important question that lacks a satisfactory answer. and i have never been more bothered by that tendency than i was late one night, september 2008. i was writing a piece on racial disparities in law enforcement. and as the son of a reference librarian, i'm fairly good at finding things. at least i thought i was. i began at about 10:00 at night one night and 13 1/2 hours later i had to take a break to go to lunch. not only had i not found anything and the research staff trying to help me find things, i called my mom and she couldn't find anything. and as the task force understands, people in this room understand, that's because there are no national data on police use of force. there are no national data on
police stops. there's no national data on police behavior in general. and what arrested me, stopped me in that moment was not just the embarrassing lack of data on something so fundamental as what police officers do and how that might affect the community, but that the data were a part of human behavior. something that we as social scientists know more about than anything else. anything else in the policy domain. what i want to talk to you today is about at least three things that we would be considering differently if we took the social science insights seriously. first, social science has revealed for quite some time that we engage with others to the degree that they make us feel about ourselves. much more than the degree we feel about them. so in close relationships, you're much more likely to make a commitment to a partner because they make you feel good about you than because you're particularly attracted to them. in race and social justice context, the work of jennifer richardson nicole shelton,
jackie and myself shows that concerns with how you might appear in an interracial interaction are frequently more important than any level of prejudice. and what that means, if we were to take it seriously, we wouldn't just put an emphasis on procedural justice and how we treat the community, but the perception, the experience of procedural justice for law enforcement would be fundamental. the second social science insight. social scientists have known for quite some time that attitudes predict about 10% of behavior at best, at best. that includes racial behaviors. now, that means that if we were to neutralize all of the racial prejudice implicit or explicit, we would only get rid about 10% of discriminatory behavior at best. and that leads me to my third social science insight, which is that situations are often more powerful predictors of behavior than character. and if we take those insights seriously, it means that in
addition to focusing on training, we would also focus very heavily on the policies and understanding what policies lead to chronic situations making people vulnerable to their own biases and stereotypes. now, the center of policing equity, our goal has been to take these insights seriously. and the most notable success of that model is probably what led me to here in the first place, the aggregation of data. so the national justice data base is the first national data base to aggregate police stops and use of force. we now cover about 25% of the nation's population with those committed to doing that. but more importantly than creating that database, perhaps, is the way it came about. law enforcement executives chiefs, commissioners and sheriffs came together and said we need this. we want to do it in the best, most objective, scientific way. and they came to the scientists to ask for our help. what concretely would i ask the task force to do in light of these promising observations? again, i'll have a different set of three asks. first, i would ask the task force to encourage federal funding, to aggregate national
statistics on policing. second, i would ask the task force to encourage federal stake holders to facilitate more opportunities for law enforcement communities to learn from social scientists and vice versa because this evidence base is only growing. and third, i would ask the task force to recommend expanding technical and financial assistance from departments thatr want to benefit to the approaches to fairness but lack the means to follow through on intentions. cep doesn't ever take money from the law enforcement partners, but we are constantly approached by a department that can't even afford to task a lieutenant with being a project liaison. if we want to take seriously that law enforcement wants tooed the right thing, i hope the task force will recommend there are the means to accomplish that. i began by saying as a scientist, an important question without a satisfactory answer. anathema. i do not believe that social science is the answer. but i do believe that it can help set the table for divining what the answers would be. and i hope the task force allows us the space to continue doing that. thank